San Francisco officials receiving security while campaigning outside the city would have to pay the city back under new legislation proposed today by a city supervisor.
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi’s ordinance, introduced before the full board today, would make it city law for officials using security from the Police Department or district attorney’s office during such campaigns to reimburse the city for the cost, or face fines and a misdemeanor charge.
Mayor Gavin Newsom and District Attorney Kamala Harris are the most high-profile city officials currently seeking higher office in California. Newsom has been campaigning for governor and Harris for attorney general.
Though current law prohibits city officials and employees from using city resources for political activities, it does not ban the use of public funds to pay for 24-hour security detail for officials, even while they are campaigning.
“We need to do everything possible to recover our cost,” Mirkarimi said.
Mirkarimi’s legislation would only require the city be paid back for security while campaigning outside the city. It would include the cost of the security’s base salary, benefits, overtime pay, per diem payments, transportation, meals and other expenses.
Newsom has been campaigning at town hall meetings throughout the state in his quest for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2010.
Information on Harris’ security detail was not immediately available.
Mirkarimi said he’s tried to gain information from the mayor’s office about the extent of the security Newsom has used during his campaign, but has been stymied.
He insisted the ordinance was “budget driven.”
“We’re not questioning the use of security detail at all,” Mirkarimi said.
“Hundreds of thousands of dollars are being used of city-subsidized peace officers,” he said, “and we should be able to have some ground rules to the application of these resources.”
The proposed legislation touched a nerve with Newsom’s office, which today responded with outrage, calling it “a desperate attempt to grab headlines.”
“The mayor is the mayor 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whether he’s shopping for groceries, at home with his family, in City Hall, or at a town hall,” said Newsom spokesman Nathan Ballard.
“The Police Department is responsible for protecting his life 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Ballard said. “Ross Mirkarimi has no business micromanaging the Police Department as they protect the safety of the mayor. Security decisions should be made by cops, not by bloviating politicians like Ross Mirkarimi.”